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House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano assured the public that the passage of the law granting President Rodrigo Duterte special powers to address the coronavirus outbreak in the country is constitutional.

Cayetano made the statement in response to Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman's claim that the House of Representatives’ virtual plenary session and online voting is not legal because the amendments to allow such system in the existing House rules were not formally adopted.

“Despite the misgivings of Rep. Lagman, Congress made sure to follow all the rules, while applying a healthy dose of practicality, in the conduct of the Special Session. This is in accordance with the urgent need for innovation and adaptation as we face this grave crisis,” Cayetano said.

“An over-emphasis on the minor details will lead to paralysis, and paralysis at this time could mean death to thousands, if not millions of Filipinos,” he added.

In a special session on Monday, the House, voting with 284 affirmative votes, nine negative votes and zero abstention, approved its own version of the proposal embodied in House Bill 6616. It subsequently adopted on Tuesday dawn Senate Bill 1418 or the proposed “Bayanihan To Heal as One Act of 2020” as an amendment to HB 6616.

The lower chamber’s move to adopt the Senate version paved the way for the quick passage of proposed measure or “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” which was certified as urgent by Duterte.

Cayetano urged Lagman and other critics to channel their energies into finding “real, practical solutions” to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am certain that the President, the members of the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases), the House and Senate leaderships, in fact, the whole country, would welcome every good idea at this time. I also ask Rep. Lagman to use his vast experience in government to help Congress do its part in helping the Executive effectively implement the law,” he said.

“This is the time for new mindsets and paradigms as we continue the national - even global - conversations on how we can defeat Covid-19, and preserve lives. In this, we must work with mass media and focus on solutions, not headlines,” he added.

The Bayanihan to Heal As One Act gives Duterte authority to realign the government’s national budget and savings to better respond to the Covid-19 national emergency.

It gives Duterte authority to facilitate the immediate testing of persons under investigation (PUIs) and monitoring (PUMs), and direct establishments to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, or relief and aid distribution venues.

The granting of the financial allowance, hazard pay and compensation or shouldering their medical expenses, and direct public transportation to ferry them to and from their workplaces is also among the provisions under the law.

Duterte will also have authority to expedite the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) suits and other medical equipment, ensure that there will be no delays in the donation, acceptance, and distribution of health items, and liberalize the grant of incentives for the manufacture and importation of critical and needed equipment.

The law authorizes alternative working arrangements for workers and regulates and limits the operation of transportation and traffic.

It also provides subsidies to low-income households, implement an expanded and enhanced Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps) for those affected by the quarantine.

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